Chapter 1: House Arrest
In the aftermath of the war, as the Wizarding world struggled to find its feet once again, the country had undergone a massive overhaul of the political system. With many of the politicians from the older generation removed from their positions and replaced with younger, more open-minded wizards and witches, the country was changing and for the better at that. Money was pumped into new and upcoming projects and a large chunk of that went into the funding of research into potions designed to heal those wounded; both physically and mentally.
With potions suddenly pushed to the forefront of focus, I had found myself interested in a subject that had never once held my attention before. No one had been more surprised than I was when I went on to become a potioneer that worked in one of the new research facilities. My days revolved around tweaking and fixing the recipe for the innovative potion I had been working on since leaving Hogwarts. I had yet to find the breakthrough that I desperately searched for and instead seemed to spend more time consulting my notes to find out where I had gone wrong.
And, as if on cue, an explosion rang out through my potion’s lab. The sound sent a dagger of ice through my heart and acting on an instinct that I had been forced to learn, my wand was held out in front of me and aimed at nothing in particular. My heart thudded painfully in my chest as I scanned the room and realising that I was alone, that I had majorly overreacted, I lowered my wand to my side and finally let myself breathe easy.
Only I wished I hadn’t. The first lungful of air had me coughing at the smoke that filled the room and I hurriedly approached the smoking cauldron in the corner. My latest attempt at creating my still unnamed potion had just blown up and was the cause of the smoke that continued to fill the room. Coughing quietly, I peered into the cauldron and made a face. The potion that was supposed to remain a pearly white had instead become a deep green and turned into a thick goo that clung to the cauldron.
Levitating the still boiling cauldron, I walked towards the sink to clear the cauldron. I passed the now open doorway of my potion lab and hesitated in my step when I caught sight of the two men standing in the doorway. The pair of Aurors stood cautiously in the doorway; one of them was the head of the Auror office who I had been contacting via owl for the last few weeks. In his last response, the middle-aged man had told me he’d be coming to visit me, and I guessed that the silent, unimpressed blond at his side was the guest he’d written about. They coughed uncomfortably, not expecting the smoke that had greeted them when they opened the door. Setting the cauldron down in the sink, I made the smoke dissipate with a wave of my wand.
“Come in,” I called out over my shoulder, tipping the contents of the potion away and set about cleaning it quickly.
Receiving no response to my words, I looked back to the two Aurors standing in my doorway and watched as they looked around at my office as if wondering where they were supposed to sit. Hurrying away from the sink, I tried to clean up at least a little space for my guests but really, it would take hours to clean this office.
“Please, come in,” I said again as I removed a stack of papers from two of the spare chairs in the room and gesturing for the Aurors to walk in.
They finally listened to my words and headed into the room, throwing curious looks around at the papers that were sprawled across the entire room. Not that they’d be able to understand them – sometimes I had no idea what I’d written in my notes.
“So?” I questioned, turning away from them to note down my findings before I forgot to write down what I had observed. “What can I help you with?”
“Your protection detail,” the Head Auror began, stopping himself when I tutted in annoyance.
Straightening up, I turned to face the older man and crossed my arms as I insisted, “Really, Mr Giles, there’s no reason for you to assign me a protection detail. I don’t need one; it’s just not necessary or an effective way of using the resources of the Auror department.”
“With all due respect Miss Turner,” he began sternly, making me shuffle slightly on my feet as I very much felt like a child being scolded. “In the last month, six attempts have been made on you.”
That seemed to get Malfoy’s attention as he stopped casting a disdainful glance around my lab and instead turned to me and levelled a solemn stare at my standing figure. He assessed me silently, trying to figure out what I had done to warrant six attacks on my person in the last month.
I returned his stare, pushing my reading glasses up my nose, “And is that detail you then, Malfoy?”
He nodded, pursing his lips slightly as he muttered, “Unfortunately,” before turning back to his assessment of my lab.
I watched with curious eyes as he rose from his seat beside his boss and instead began to walk around the room. He picked up one of the books that had formed the basis of my research and flickered through it to a random page. Grey eyes scanned the first few lines of the page and his eyebrows rose in surprise and it was then that I remembered that Malfoy was bright, something that many people forgot. But apparently, he was only ever second place, scoring very slightly behind Granger. Malfoy lifted his eyes, looking at me contemplatively before glancing back at the book.
Clearing my throat, I looked at Mr Giles and asked, “So, how is this going to work then? Is he supposed to babysit me whilst I’m working or something?”
“Actually, this is more of a 24-hour thing.”
Staring incredulously at the older man, I demanded, “You’re telling me that he’s going to be around me all day. Until when exactly?”
“We’re not sure,” Giles admitted, and I rubbed at my temples to ease the tension that had suddenly appeared there. “We have to wait and see when the next attack is to try and figure out who’s behind all of this.”
Helga, just how was this supposed to work?
Apparently being under 24-hour surveillance actually meant that Malfoy was supposed to be bunking in my home for who knows how long. As if that wasn’t awkward enough, he had taken one look at the old pureblood manor before asking if my parents would mind him staying. I wasn’t sure how to tell him that one of my parents had been killed during the anti-muggle-born raids and the other was in Azkaban for being a death eater. Helga, not even father had known about mother’s allegiance and had died without knowing that she was one of the people who was trying to eradicate people of his blood from the country.
I still had no idea why mother had married a muggle-born if she was so against them, but I hadn’t ever asked her. Helga, I hadn’t even spoken to her since she’d been taken away by a team of Aurors and now a member of the very team that had taken her in was moving into one of the guestrooms. I settled for telling Malfoy that I was the only one left before having the house-elf show him to his room.
If I hadn’t been the person to let Malfoy into my home, then I wouldn’t have known that he was here. After being shown to his room, he hadn’t come down the stairs since and I found myself listening out for any sounds of movement coming from upstairs but there was nothing. Unless he had fallen asleep?
Now, after having made dinner for the two of us, I stared contemplatively at his plate. If he really was asleep then I could always just put the food under a stasis charm for him to eat later. But what if he didn’t like it? Or if he thought I was babying him? What was –
“Turner.” My eyes shot to the doorway of the kitchen where Malfoy stood, looking at me with contemplative eyes. “You alright? You’ve been staring at nothing for ages.”
“I’m fine,” I assured him with a smile before gesturing to the two plates of food. His eyebrows rose in surprise. “The table’s already been set so why don’t you go and sit down? I’ll bring the plates through.”
He nodded before leaving the room without another word. I watched his back as he left and let out a breath; that was the longest conversation we’d had since he’d arrived at my house. If we were going to live in this stifling awkwardness until they managed to catch whoever was behind this, then I sincerely hoped that the person appeared soon. I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take.
Picking up both plates, I headed to the dining table where I found Malfoy seated as he stared curiously around the room. He muttered a quiet ‘thank you’ when I set his plate down in front of him and began eating quietly. As I sat across from him, I watched him for a long moment and wondered where the Malfoy that I’d gone to school with had disappeared off to. He had certainly been nothing like the man seated in front of me.
Looking to my own plate, I began to eat and cast a glance to the parchment that I had left lying on the dining table before heading off to make dinner. The parchment – a list of rules that outlined the regulations both Malfoy and I were supposed to keep to – had been handed to me by the Head Auror before he left my lab. It wasn’t anything too intense; it just reminded us not to get too involved with each other before the protection detail was finished or else he’d have to be switched to someone else.
Setting the parchment down with a sigh, I looked at the silent man in front of me and cleared my throat. “If I – have I done something to offend you? You’ve been really quiet.”
Malfoy let out a deep breath, rubbing a hand over his face before he looked up at me. “Look it’s nothing – you haven’t done anything.”
“Then what is it?”
“Why do you want to know?” He narrowed his eyes at me but realising that I didn’t plan on cowering under his stare, he admitted, “This is my first mission since I was pulled from field missions. I had hoped that when the time came, I’d be back on the field but here I am; babysitting a potioneer.”
Rolling my eyes, I asked dryly, “Do you think I wasn’t to be babysat 24/7?”
“Obviously not,” he retorted, clearly growing annoyed. I let out a deep breath, reigning in my temper before I exploded and told him off for being so infuriating. Somehow, I didn’t think that would help the situation.
“Look Malfoy, this is a situation neither of us wants to be in, but we have no say in this. This just might be easier if we actually talked to each other every now and then – we don’t need to become friends. Helga, I’m not even sure if we could become friends, but being good-natured acquaintances might be a start?”
He thought over my words for a long moment but ultimately said nothing. I watched as he pushed his chair back from the table and picked up his plate. Coming around the table to take my empty plate, he walked in the direction of the kitchen.
“I’ll do the washing,” he offered, and it was simple enough to bring a smile to my face.
It was a start.
The following day found me walking to my office with Malfoy trailing after me. I had tried to tell him that fewer people were going to stare at us if we walked side by side, instead of him following shortly behind me. But the stubborn man hadn’t listened and continued to shadow me. And, like I had predicted, each of my colleagues that we passed on the way were shooting us curious looks, wanting to know just what I was working on that had warranted me having an Auror stationed at my side. It wasn’t like I could give them an answer anyway – I was working on a strictly need to know basis as ordered by the ministry.
We continued to walk through the corridor in a stifling silence, walking past all the other potion laboratories and up a flight of stairs to the floor where my lab was stationed. I had been assigned the isolated lab because it had higher security measures put in place and if any trouble did happen, it was separate enough for the other workers to have time to alert the Aurors.
As I stood in front of the thick wooden door that led to my lab, I retrieved my wand and prepared to cast the numerous spells that were necessary to get past the wards. It took minutes to get through the wards and then we were in, and I led Malfoy into the room. He followed slowly after me, scanning the room as if he expected a Dark wizard to jump out from one of the corners.
“Are you sure it hasn’t been ransacked?” he asked doubtfully, the corner of his mouth turning down in distaste.
I rolled my eyes as I approached the desk that had papers strewn across it. If there was one thing I had managed to learn in the last however-many hours I had spent with Malfoy, it was that he was a huge neat freak. It was as if the slightest mess set him on edge, but heaven forbid he have to clean it himself. No, he just complained until I cleaned it up. His reasoning being that I had been the one to make the mess, so I should be the one to clean it. And whilst he had a point, it just made me want to remind him that it was my house.
“It’s organised,” I insisted, casting a glance at Malfoy who simply scoffed. Clearing the papers from a small section of one of the tables, he sat on top of it and tutted when I added, “It is organised – just in a way that only I can understand.”
Glancing away from him I started to heat the cauldron in preparation for brewing the latest batch of my potion. Helga, I was on the brink of a breakthrough – I just knew it. It was only a matter of being patient and persevering until I got there. Malfoy, who had seated himself on the table where I stored my ingredients, made a sound of interest.
Looking curiously towards him, I hurried to his side when I realised he was reading through a page of my notes. Crossing the room towards him, I snatched the parchment from him and he looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“What are you doing?” I asked, clearing my throat and stacking the papers around him before moving them out of his reach.
“Not that watching you work isn’t fascinating,” he began sarcastically, “But I need to do something to make the time go faster.”
“And that happens to be reading about my work?” He seemed to notice something in my tone then, something that was borderline hysterical. It made him pause for a moment, wondering whether he’d missed something.
“I didn’t know you knew French,” he settled for eventually, making my spine straighten.
I didn’t. I had taken to translating my work into different languages after having written my notes because the last person to get curious about my work had been taken and tortured to try and get the details out of them. Malfoy wasn’t the first Auror that had been assigned to me – the last one had been placed following the second attack and I’d made the mistake of indulging his interest in my work. I wouldn’t do that again.
“You can speak French?” I questioned as I set about brewing the potion but this time I doubled the amount of elderflower. If I was correct in my theory, then it would stop the potion exploding.
“Mother had me learn it as a child,” he explained, and a long silence followed his words. Minutes ticked by as I stirred the potion, waiting for it to turn translucent until I could add the next ingredient. Finally, he broke his silence and guessed, “I can’t know what the potion is for?”
“It’s probably best if you don’t know,” I agreed, and Malfoy didn’t speak again.
Once I had added the final ingredient to the cauldron, I turned the heat down to low and let it simmer uncovered. With a sigh, I stepped away from the cauldron and grabbed my reading glasses and the book they were settled on. The textbook, an old yellowing thing, titled Irreversible Spell Damage; fact or fiction? was a difficult read. The author seemed to think that using unnecessarily large words increased the quality of his writing, but it didn’t. What it did do was make it an absolute pain to read.
“Turner,” Malfoy called out as I settled beside him on the tabletop and opened the textbook. “What are you doing?”
“This is the temperamental part of the potion brewing process,” I admitted, pushing my glasses up my nose when they slipped slightly. “Now we just wait it out.”
“The potion either works out like it should, or it ends up exploding – whichever happens first.” I shrugged under his eyes and looked at the open textbook in front of me. “Creating a new potion is an unpredictable endeavour.”
I had anticipated that Malfoy would let me read in peace, but I was clearly under the wrong impression that he was an academic like me and that he would understand that I needed the quiet to understand what I was reading. And perhaps he did understand that. But his understanding was overruled by his boredom.
“You went to Hogwarts with me,” he started randomly, making me look up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Two years below me – Hufflepuff.”
“And what about it?”
He shrugged, “It’s been only two years since you graduated – how are you working in such a big potions lab and on something so … innovative at that?”
“Two years after graduating you had helped to fill the majority of the cells in Azkaban,” I shot back, watching him roll his eyes as if to dismiss the significance of my words.
His eyes dropped to the pages open in front of me as he muttered, “Well I had something I needed to prove.”
“To who?” I asked quietly, certain that he’d ignore my question.
But he surprised me, just as he’d continued to do from the moment he’d reappeared in my office. “Myself.”
Something was very, very wrong.
Every day when I checked out of work, I made sure to lock the door to my lab. Helga, I even double-checked it and since Malfoy had come along, I’d had him check a final time too. He thought it unnecessary but humoured me anyway. So, I was certain that I’d locked the lab door before going home last night. And naturally, I expected the door to be closed when I returned to work in the morning. But just as I went to go through the rather long routine of dismantling each of the wards, I was struck by the realisation that it wasn’t necessary. The wards had already been removed.
Someone had gotten into my office and had shut the door behind them to make it seem like it had never been ransacked in the first place. And perhaps I wouldn’t have realised that if my magic didn’t react so viscerally to the evident lack of my magical print surrounding the lab. Sucking in a deep breath, I tightened my hold on my wand and stepped towards the door.
“What’s going on?” Malfoy asked from behind me, realising my hesitance to walk into the room.
“The wards are gone,” I murmured quietly, turning back towards the tall Auror.
“What are you talking about?” he demanded suddenly, reaching out a hand to grasp my arm when it became evident that I had gathered all the courage I needed to convince myself to step into the room. Pulling me roughly towards him, he narrowed his eyes at me before asking heatedly, “Are you certain? I watched you place the wards twice before we left.”
At my nod, his jaw tightened, and he released my arm. After ordering me to stay put, Malfoy turned towards my lab door and straightened his shoulders out. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew his wand with a hand that was far steadier than my own and trained it on the door. Pushing the door open slowly, Malfoy walked with small steps, scanning the room as he went. Eventually, he dropped his wand to his side with a sigh and gestured for me to follow him.
“It looks like this place has been raided,” he said gravely as I went to his side. “More so than normal anyway. It seems like the intruder left a while ago.”
I only vaguely listened to his words and instead looked around the room and realised whoever had broken into my lab had seen fit to go through my all of my paperwork and throw whatever wasn’t of use to them on the floor. My eyes lifted slowly to the ugly mark painted across one of the walls. Helga, would the ministry ever catch all of the death eaters? Or would they continue to bring terror to the wizarding world?
Malfoy, misinterpreting my silence as fear, crouched down and began to collate some of the paperwork that laid scattered across the floor. “Don’t worry about anything Turner. We’ll figure out how they got past the wards. Although maybe it would be a good idea to talk to your colleagues and find out if they saw anything suspicious? Turner?” He glanced curiously up at me, finding my attention focused solely on the dark mark painted on the wall. “We’ll get that removed, I swear.”
“Helga, how could I have forgotten?” I berated myself instantly, striding towards the wall.
From the corner of my eye, I managed to spy Malfoy rising to his feet, as he protested, “Leave it alone,” only to trail off as I pressed the tip of my wand to one of the bricks.
It moved out of the way, twisting to reveal a hidden compartment which would only open with a drop of my blood. It was a morbid way of keeping the potion safe, I knew that, but after the first attack, I knew how easy it was for these people to get a hold of my magical essence. Helga, the fact that they were able to dismantle the wards proved just that. Pressing my wand to my palm, I muttered a small spell that slashed a shallow cut across my palm. I hissed at the pain, pointedly ignoring the comment Malfoy made about doubting my sanity and pressed my bleeding palm against the door of the small safe.
Its door swung open to reveal the vial I had placed in it only last night. The potion, my first real breakthrough, was safe and that knowledge was enough to have the tension easing out of me. Malfoy walked to my side, watching as I closed the door and the brick moved back into place.
“You still won’t tell me what the potion is for?” he asked, holding his wand to my palm and murmuring a gentle healing charm that had the cut stitching itself back together.
I shook my head, “Like I said, it’s best if you don’t know.” Looking back to the vial held in my hand, I outstretched it towards the older man. “But maybe it’s best if you held onto it until I can figure out somewhere safer to keep it.”
“You’re shaking,” he said gently, so gently that for a moment I seemed to forget just who it was that I was currently speaking to. Snagging the vial from my hand, he pocketed it and thought for a moment. “You’ve got a lab in your home, don’t you?” At my nod, he admitted, “It’ll be better for you to work from home from now on. I’ll have my superior speak to your boss about it.” Stepping away from me, he shook his head as he cast a glance around the room. “Do you think they took anything of importance? Any notes?”
“I had them all inscribed with ruins anyway,” I murmured a little wearily. “Only my touch will reveal the true meaning of the words. At the time I thought it was a bit of an overkill but now, I’m glad I did it.”
“It was a smart idea,” he agreed. “Grab whatever you need, and we’ll get you home. You’re too shaken to do anything productive today.”
And I didn’t argue with him. Not when he began to rifle through my notes to help me gather them all together. Not when he wrapped an arm around my shoulder to apparate back to my home. And not when he ushered me to the sofa and headed off to make me a cup of tea.
Whilst working from home was much more practical than having to go into work each morning, it was also more disruptive to my day to day life. All I needed to do was walk down a few flights of stairs to begin working and I found myself revolving around a tight schedule of working on the potion and sleep. Although, there were those days where I would forsake the need to sleep and work for a few nights straight. In those cases, I would have to sleep for almost 24 hours to recover. It was only when my body finally decided to almost give way, that I forced myself to crawl into my bed. I expected to sleep for almost an entire day or until my body decided that it was well-rested enough for me to return to work.
I didn’t expect to be forcefully awoken by the curtains being suddenly thrown open. Groaning in my sleep at the sudden assault of the morning light, I rolled over to burrow my face into my pillow. The intruder began speaking, trying to convince me to wake up and get dressed. I did none of that.
Instead, I lifted my head from the pillow and with my eyes still closed, I demanded, “Why are you in here, Malfoy?”
The moment the question was out, I dropped my face once again into my pillow. Clutching the blanket tight around me, I willed myself to fall back asleep and just as I was halfway there, the infuriating man spoke up once again.
“I’m not going to let you continue to live like this,” he said with all the arrogance in the world. “Your world of fluctuating between work and sleep isn’t healthy, Turner. So, get up before I make you.”
“I’d like to see you try,” I muttered sleepily, the words smothered by the pillow which made them incomprehensible. What was the big deal? He’d give up and head on his way soon enough.
And in the minutes of silence that followed, I allowed myself to feel a short burst of victory. Finally, I could go back to sleep without having to worry about Malfoy –
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
The blanket was ripped suddenly from around me, exposing my bare legs to the cold air. My eyes flew open and I curled up into a ball, not caring that Malfoy was currently seeing my pyjamas; an oversized ratty quidditch shirt and my pyjama shorts. Looking over Malfoy’s standing form with a disgruntled frown, I muttered curses under my breath.
“You know,” he started casually, putting his hands in his trouser pockets, “if you choose not to get out of bed in the next five minutes then I’m going to cast an aguamenti over you. It’s your choice, Turner.”
“My God,” I groaned, forcing myself to sit up and stretching my arms over my head. “What is your problem, Malfoy? Why can’t you just let me sleep?” He had no answer for my question and was instead staring at my top. Another question died on the tip of my tongue when I realised that I didn’t sleep with a bra on, which meant that –
Snagging a pillow in my arms, I cradled it against my chest and narrowed my eyes at the silent man. “Why are you still in here?”
“You’re a Harpies fan?” he questioned suddenly, and I felt so foolish. So, he hadn’t been staring at my chest. “I’m more of a Falcons fan myself.”
“Why am I not surprised?” I muttered around a yawn, watching him narrow his eyes at my careless words.
“Why? Because they’re the most violent team in the league?”
“No, you sensitive princess,” I sighed, rubbing the remaining sleep from my eyes. “Because their uniform is dark in colour and goodness knows that right up your alley.”
He sniffed as though my words had offended him, but I could see the amusement curling at the corner of his lips. “Black never goes out of fashion.”
“Would it kill you to wear a colour other than black?”
“Probably.” I rolled my eyes, even as a smile bloomed on my lips. “What the hell are you doing in here anyway?”
“Hurry up and get dressed – we’re going out for breakfast,” he ordered as he headed to leave the room.
“But we can’t leave the potion alone!”
“I’ve arranged to have some Aurors over to housesit whilst we’re out.” Before he could shut the door behind him, he narrowed his eyes at me. “No more excuses. I’m giving you half an hour and if you’re not downstairs by then, I’m going to come back and cast that aguamenti on you.”
Scrunching my nose in distaste, I glanced away from the now shut door and looked to my blanket which Malfoy had carelessly cast aside by the foot of my bed. I was so tempted to pick it up and go back to sleep, but I didn’t put it past him to follow through with his threat.
Forcing myself to my feet, I made myself get ready within the half-hour Malfoy had allocated for me. I opened the door, not expecting to find Malfoy on the other side with a hand raised as if to knock on the door.
“Ready to go?” he asked, looking over me from head to toe as if to check what I was wearing.
“No, but you’re going to make me go anyway.”
“Damn right I am.”
With an arm around me, Malfoy apparated the pair of us away after calling out an order to the Aurors that must have arrived whilst I was changing clothes. We reappeared on an unfamiliar street which was surprisingly empty considering the time of day. Leading me into a café, Malfoy sat me down at a table before heading to the till to place our orders. I watched him in silence, wondering if this really was the boy who had been a bully whilst we were at school. He also seemed so very different to the brooding Auror that had stepped into my office.
When he returned to the table, Malfoy settled himself down as a tray appeared from thin air. Snagging the teacup from the tray, Malfoy stirred two sugar cubes into it as he assured me, “The food will be along shortly.”
“Thanks,” I said quietly, accepting the teacup when he held it out for me after having poured some milk into it. When had he learnt how I liked my tea?
“No problem,” he said as if it was nothing, and maybe it was. Because Merlin, surely it meant nothing that he knew how I drank my tea? Except, I couldn’t remember the last time someone had been around me long enough to learn such a mundane detail about my day-to-day life.
Malfoy didn’t comment on my silence and instead glanced out of the window, watching a group of boys as they played in the street. He raised his own teacup – black, one sugar with the tea bag left in– to his lips and I committed it to memory.
With each passing day, Malfoy and I slowly learnt more and more about one another. And sometimes, when I looked back at the boy he had been when we were at school, I could hardly believe that he was the same person. I’d always known that people changed as they aged but sometimes I felt like he’d become a completely different person. The boy I had gone to school with had been a coward, one that hid behind his bully persona, but the man currently sitting beside me and reading the weekend newspaper was one of the bravest men I had ever had the pleasure of meeting.
It wasn’t often that Draco spoke to me of the missions he’d gone on, but after my curiosity had gotten the best of me, I had asked him about the most memorable mission he’d ever been on. I had expected him to tell me a tale of a mission that dragged on for long enough that he’d grown so tired that he couldn’t take another step or even one where he and his fellow Aurors had shared funny tales to pass the time as they waited in hiding for the appearance of the dark wizard they had been tasked to apprehend. I hadn’t expected the tale he told me to be so riddled with self-hatred and guilt that all I wanted was to take him in my arms. But I knew he wouldn’t appreciate that so instead I rose to my feet and made him a cup of tea and sat by his side as the demons slowly fled from his eyes.
The boy from school wouldn’t have been able to go through half of what Draco had witnessed without running to his father. Draco had changed so very much. But then again, sometimes it was as if he hadn’t changed at all. There were still those moments where he complained if I tasked him with some cleaning. And secretly I was thankful for those moments because it was those moments that meant there was still some innocence hidden within him that years of chasing after the very source of terror and horror hadn’t managed to corrupt.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, bringing me from my thoughts.
I blinked slowly, turning towards him. “What?”
“You’ve been staring at the same piece of paper for over ten minutes,” he explained, gesturing to the set of notes I was supposed to be looking over. “What’s got you so distracted?”
You. The word was on the tip of my tongue, but I swallowed it down and muttered some sort of excuse about how I had always been easily distracted. But the excuse trailed off halfway when I felt an unwanted presence breaching the wards of my home. My spine straightened, and I scanned the room as if expecting a dark wizard to appear from thin air. But that was impossible. No one was supposed to be able to –
I was on my feet before I realised it. My potion, I needed to –
Draco took my hand before I could move away, trying to halt me. “What is it, what’s wrong?”
“There’s someone in the house,” I whispered, feeling the fear constrict my throat as I shrugged out of his hand. Draco, even with his honed Auror reflexes wasn’t quick enough to stop me as I shot off towards my potions lab.
He cursed under his breath, shooting after me and trying to get me to halt. But didn’t he understand? This was my home – none of them had gotten this far before. And I’d never been made to feel so unsafe within these walls –
“Stay here, you daft woman,” Draco hissed, hands reaching out to snag my waist. His hold tightened on me, pulling me into his chest despite my struggles. I stilled under his steely eyes and swallowed slowly. “I’m supposed to be protecting you Turner, and you’re making that job a lot harder than it needs to be. Stay here and let me check what’s going on.”
“Draco,” I protested, even as he pulled away from me and walked the remaining few paces towards the door of my lab. He turned to shoot me another glance as if to warn me to remain put and I fidgeted with my wand, holding my breath as I watched Draco push the door open.
The breath left me in one big whoosh as I heard Draco cast a curse and then, barely seconds later, an answering curse was shot. They were still here – whoever had gotten past the wards was still here, there was still a chance that they were going to steal the potion.
That stray thought had me running into the lab, distantly realising that Draco was still duelling the dark wizard. He spotted my presence before the other wizard had and released a string of foul curse words, but I didn’t let that distract me. Rushing through the lab, I mentally thanked Draco for blocking a curse that the unfamiliar wizard thought to throw at my turned back. Sudden heat filled the room before I could reach out to snag the potion vial that was lying on my worktop.
Glancing at the intruder, I watched him struggle with the flames sprouting from the end of his wand before he disapparated on the spot.
Fiendfyre. The coward had cast a fiendfyre on his way out.
Draco was crossing the room before I could grab the potions vial, dragging me out of the lab. He ignored my struggles, easily overpowering me and plucking me into his arms, practically throwing me over his shoulder in his urgency to get me out of the room.
“Draco!” I screeched in protest as we hurried to the exit of the room and when we reached the corridor, he set me on my feet. I peered back into my lab to see the fiendfyre steadily making its way through the room. I could still make it. Draco realised where my thoughts were and wrapped a restraining arm around my waist.
“I have no idea how to stop it,” he stressed the words, meeting my wild eyes. “The house is going to burn down in a matter of minutes and we need to get out of here.”
“The potion,” I insisted, reaching out to grasp his arms, “I need to get the potion.”
“It’ll save countless lives!” My desperate plea made him pause, regarding me closely for a moment.
“Get out of the house,” he hissed, “and if I’m not by your side by the time the house burns to the ground then you get yourself to Ministry. Get to the ministry and ask for Potter and tell him I’m shifting your responsibility to him and if the bloody man protests, remind him he’s my partner and part of that entails finishing what I fail to do.”
“Draco,” I protested quietly but he was already pushing me away from him and running into the room which was rapidly going up in flames.
“Get out!” he shouted, and I let my feet carry me through the house.
Within mere minutes I was standing outside of my childhood home and watching as it crumbled to the ground. With each ticking minute, I grew more anxious and searched for Draco who still showed no sign of leaving the house. Helga, I’d killed him. I’d killed the only man that –
I looked over my shoulder, turning my back to the burning house, and to the man standing behind me. The ash covering his clothes, the red singeing his skin told me just how close he’d gotten to the flames and before I could have even wanted to stop it, a sob slipped past my trembling lips. My legs carried me to him before I even processed the need to hold him. But I did it anyway.
My arms wrapped around his neck and he winced slightly at the force of my hug. Whatever he was holding in his arms fell to the floor and he held me close to him. I whispered nonsense through my sobs and he remained silent, rubbing a hand over the back of my head.
“I apparated out in time,” he reminded me gently, frowning when I pulled away from him. He fidgeted slightly, his hand hovering around my face as if he wanted to wipe away my tears but was stopping himself.
“I thought I got you killed,” I wailed desperately, wiping my palms across my face.
“It’ll take more than a fiendfyre to get rid of me,” he muttered.
“But what took you so long?”
He gestured to the papers scattered around his feet. “I didn’t know what was important and what wasn’t, so I grabbed as much as I could.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled something out of his pocket. “And I managed to get this out too.”
I took the potion’s vial from him with grateful hands. Fresh tears brimmed in my eyes and Draco sighed as if my reaction was too much. He waved his wand at the papers, gathering them neatly in his hand and gesturing for me to step closer to him.
“You’ll have to stay at the Manor for now,” he explained before apparating us away.
We appeared in the sitting room of Malfoy Manor and without giving me a chance to adjust to my settings, Draco called out for his mother. The Malfoy matriarch appeared at the sound of her son’s voice, but all the happiness fled from her face when she realised the state he had appeared in.
“Mother, she’s going to be staying with us for the foreseeable future,” he informed his mother as he gestured to me. The older woman nodded and went to step towards him.
“Draco, your arm,” she called out, startling me.
I looked to Draco, to his bared left arm which appeared very badly burned. How had I not noticed it sooner? I had been so relieved that he had made it out alive that I hadn’t even registered it. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
He ignored both his mother’s and my words and instead addressed the older woman. “Mother, please see to it that her room is properly set up.”
“Of course,” she agreed quietly, stepping towards her son. “But your arm –”
“I’m fine,” he insisted firmly, brushing past the older woman on his way out.
“He’s always been like that,” Mrs Malfoy finally said, turning to me after her son’s retreat. “If you give me a few minutes, I’ll have your room set up.”
“Thank you,” I said, eyes rooted firmly to the back of the retreating wizard. “I’m sorry for intruding-”
“Nonsense,” she dismissed with a sigh. “I’ll have a house-elf collect you once your room is ready.”
I nodded, thanking her silently and trailing after Draco before he could disappear out of sight. My steps sped up slightly, walking up the long flight of stairs and trailing without a sound, after the silent Auror. Was this the ‘mood’ he claimed he went into after each of his missions? Draco disappeared into a room that I assumed was his bedroom and I hesitated outside the door.
Letting out a deep breath, I knocked on the door. His voice carried through the door, “I’m fine Mother, just check on Turner, please. She’s bound to be shocked.”
I bit my bottom lip before pushing the door open. “I’m more concerned about you, truthfully.”
Draco turned at the sound of my voice and I flushed a little realising that I had interrupted him as he sorted himself out. He was sat on his bed, having discarded his ruined shirt on the floor and was trying to tend to his burned arm by himself.
“Let me do that,” I insisted quietly, walking to his side and sitting myself down beside him.
Snagging the Dittany from the emergency first aid kit beside him, I reached out to take Draco’s arm in my hand. He pulled his arm roughly away from me and as I cast a look down at his arm I realised why. Painted across his skin was the very ugly mark that had terrorised me for months now.
“Draco,” I called out gently, taking his arm again and laying it across my thighs. Soaking some cotton wool in the Dittany, I gently patted it onto the burn. “We all have our scars you know. It’s very rare to have gone through what we’ve been through without receiving any scars along the way.”
Closing the vial of Dittany, I met his eyes and we shared a long look of understanding. He didn’t say a word as I rifled through his first aid kit to look for the burn salve to apply to his arm.
I unscrewed the lid as he murmured quietly, “You better tell me what the potion is for.”
“The potion?” I murmured, dipping my index finger into the salve and applying a thin layer across his burn, careful not to hurt him. “It’s for reversing irreversible spell damage.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“Apparently not,” I said gently, wrapping some gauze around his arm. “I had to think innovatively to come up with a solution – it essentially fixes the broken bones, cells or whatever else buy destroying the old whilst simultaneously creating the new. Technically, if the wrong people get their hands on it, it could restart a dead heart, generate new blood and practically bring someone back from the dead.”
“And that’s why the Ministry thinks the remaining death eaters are after it,” he realised with a start, watching as I packed away his first aid kit. “If they get it to Voldemort’s body – they could bring him back?”
He let out a deep breath, sighing through his nose. “Doing this is putting you in so much danger – I’ve seen that first hand. Why continue to work on such a dangerous potion?”
“The same reason you continue to face dark wizards despite how dangerous it is,” I explained, voice trailing off slightly when Draco reached out to brush his thumb across the swell of my cheek. “Regardless of what might happen to me – the good that my actions could create, is worth a little danger.”
There was being a hospitable host, and then there was Narcissa Malfoy who had surpassed that boundary long ago. For lack of a better way of explaining it, the older woman had taken me under her wing and tried her very best to rehabilitate me. She was waiting for me the next morning following my sudden appearance in her home with a patient smile. The older woman had stayed by my side and engaged me in seemingly pointless conversation and I knew that it was her way of keeping my thoughts from straying to the life-changing I had suffered through less than 24 hours ago.
She was the one to suggest that we went shopping for new clothes as well as things that I needed to ease my stay at her home. I tried to assure her that I’d begin looking for a new apartment as soon as possible but she had firmly told me not to. Mrs Malfoy was more than happy to let me stay in her home and part of me wondered whether that was solely because she knew that if I left, Draco would have to leave with me. Or was it because the large Manor was just too cold and empty with only two people in it?
After breakfast, Mrs Malfoy took me by the arm and together we apparated into a street of shops where, once we were steady, Mrs Malfoy crossed the road to embrace another woman. Pulling away from the other woman, she gestured for me to come to her side and I did so with hesitant steps as I cast a glance between the two clearly related women. Sisters?
My guess was correct. Mrs Malfoy introduced me to her older sister and before I could even begin to grow intimidated by the presence of the two stunning women, they were leading me by the arm into one of the shops. I wasn’t quite sure how long we spent drifting between the shops, but we had stopped for lunch about halfway through the trip and the number of bags at my feet was surprising. Helga, I’d never been one to enjoy clothes shopping before but for some reason, being around these two sisters brought some sort of reassurance in me that I could trust them when it came to picking out what I wore.
We were in the final shop, a magical optician’s, where I was seriously contemplating buying some contact lenses. But, even the idea of bringing my fingers to my eyes had me recoiling in disgust.
“What’s your relationship with Draco like?” Mrs Malfoy eventually asked as we stepped out of the shop once I had decided that the very likely chance of me poking myself in the eye wasn’t worth my vanity. “My son’s always been such a private person and that’s only increased tenfold after the war.”
“It was a little strained at first,” I murmured, waving goodbye to Andromeda as she headed to one of the apparition points and thinking back to the days filled with stifling silences. “But that was understandable; he craved the chance to be back out there on the field but instead he was assigned to work as my protection detail. I think we’re friends now – not that he’d ever admit it.”
Mrs Malfoy was silent for a moment, making me look curiously at her. She nodded to herself and spoke quietly as we continued to the next apparition point. “That’s good to hear; my son could do with some more friends in his life.”
“He’d never agree with you.”
“No,” she said with a small smile before apparating the pair of us away.
When we reached the Manor, I had barely put the shopping bags down on the floor when Draco was suddenly in front of me. My eyes widened in surprise at his sudden appearance, and I saw the fury in his eyes and wondered just what I had done now. But that didn’t last long. No, his eyes slid past me to his mother who easily met her son’s eyes without so much as a flinch.
“Mother,” he seethed, barely containing his anger.
“Draco,” she chimed pleasantly, slipping past her son and walking towards one of the sofas. “What is it now? Did one of the elves misplace your favourite black jumper?”
“Mother,” he said, sighing through his nose and turning his back to me as he glanced at his mother. “What if something happened whilst you were gone? Death eaters are after her. You can’t be so irresponsible.”
“Draco,” I murmured, stepping in to defend his mother.
He turned towards me suddenly, narrowing his eyes at me and making me swallow the rest of my words. “And you, how could you just go somewhere without telling me?”
“Sorry,” I said instantly, slightly taken aback by the force of his reaction.
“You better be,” he murmured, looking at the bags at my feet with a frown. He pointed his wand at the bags, murmured a spell and raised his eyes to mine when they disappeared barely seconds later. “They’re waiting for you in your room. Now come with me.”
“Where are we going?” I protested, trying to pull my hand away from his when he reached out to lead me by the arm.
His hold on my hand just tightened as he continued to escort me out of the room. “Stop asking stupid questions Turner, and just follow after me.”
Making a face on his back, I glanced at the still seated woman who was watching her son with amused eyes. She shifted her gaze to me and shrugged slightly at my questioning look. With a sigh, I followed silently after Draco as he continued to lead me into parts of the Manor that I had yet to see. And well, considering that I hadn’t been here long, that wasn’t surprising.
We turned a corner and Draco dropped my hand, pushing the door open to the room closest to him. He gestured for me to step in first and when I did, my eyebrows rose in surprise as I looked around the room.
“Is this a potions lab?” I questioned, looking at the silent man who stood in the doorway, watching my reaction. “Why does the Manor have a potions lab?”
“I may have wanted to be a potioneer in my fifth year,” he said, tucking his hands into his pocket. “My father had it built for me.”
“Spoilt,” I teased with a smile.
“Very,” he agreed, eyes heavy on me as he added, “I tend to get what I want, Turner.” Clearing my throat, I looked away from him as he sighed and approached me. Standing beside me, he nudged me with his shoulder and added, “It’s yours now – and before you get emotional, it was lying around not being used anyway. It makes sense for it to actually see some use. Besides, you need to finish that potion of yours up.”
“You sure know how to ruin a sweet gesture.”
“And if you do happen to leave the Manor again, take me with you. It’s a 24-hour protective detail, Turner.”
With Draco’s permission to use the potions lab as I wanted, I threw myself headfirst back into my work. I was so close to perfecting the potion and I just knew that I was almost there. It would only take a little longer and then I could finally leave the Malfoys and thank them for their hospitality. They wouldn’t have to put up with me for much longer and surprisingly, that thought left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.
Mixing up another batch of the potion, I left it simmering in the cauldron before walking back up the stairs and to the main sitting room where I knew I’d find Draco. And sure enough, he was sitting on one of the sofas with my newest set of notes on his lap. I wasn’t sure when his sudden interest in my work had sprung, but lately, I’d seemed to find him always occupying himself with a set of my notes held in his hands.
“You’re done already?” he asked, barely glancing up from the parchment. He raised an eyebrow when I nodded.
“I’ve left it bubbling away,” I explained with a shrug. “Hopefully this will be perfected version, and this can all be left far behind us.” My words had him setting the notes aside and watching me slowly. “What?”
“Nothing.” He shook his head, patting the space beside him. “Come here.”
“I need some water.”
Dodging the invitation, I walked back out to the corridor and ignored his shout to just ask the house-elves to get some for me. I wasn’t so focused on my work to not notice the lingering looks Draco and I had begun to share at some point along the way. The reason for those looks wasn’t all that complicated either but they’d still thrown me off, leaving me wondering how I was supposed to respond to them. And because romance, of any kind, would be the least helpful thing right now, I had taken to avoiding any opportunity for it to happen.
When I finally made my way into the kitchen, I repeatedly assured the house-elves that I didn’t need any help and fetched myself a glass of water. I took longer than necessary to return from the kitchen, hovering in the room until I was certain that the house-elves were beginning to consider me a nuisance. But when I finally made it back to the sitting room, my eyes were instantly on the blond-haired child playing on the floor.
Helga, who the hell was that?
My eyes shifted to the older male, and I raised an eyebrow questioningly. “Who?”
“Teddy,” he said as if that was supposed to be enough of an explanation. The younger boy looked to Draco at the call of his name and when he realised that Draco wasn’t looking at him but at me, he raised his eyes to my standing figure. “He’s my cousin’s kid.”
And why is he here?
I kept the question to myself and instead looked to the boy who rose to his feet and approached me. My eyes widened slightly as I watched his hair change colour right before my eyes and he giggled as if he wasn’t surprised by my reaction.
“I’m babysitting for the day,” Draco explained but I was too focused on the adorable boy who continued to make his way towards me. “Potter and his aunt are going on a date, so they’ve left him with me.”
“Hi Teddy,” I greeted, with a smile when he finally stopped in front of me.
“Hello,” he mumbled, chin dipped down slightly as he avoided meeting my eyes head-on. I cooed slightly at the shy gesture, my smile softening as the colour from his hair began to tint a very pale pink. “You’re adorable.”
“I know,” he assured me, still unable to meet my eyes and I laughed. Being around Draco had clearly rubbed off on him.
“You’re a metamorphmagus, huh?” I questioned gently, wanting to make him comfortable enough to meet my eyes. But the boy only reddened further under my gaze. “That’s so cool.”
“Teddy,” Draco called out and I finally looked at the older man, not realising that he’d been watching our interaction. Teddy stepped away from me, returning to the spot where he had been playing with a set of building blocks. He barely shrugged a shoulder as Draco warned, “Don’t go getting your first crush.”
Teddy didn’t look up from the rocket ship he was building as he threw back, “Why? Is she your girlfriend or something?”
“Something like that, “Draco agreed before I could protest, rising from his seat to join Teddy on the floor.
I watched the two of them play on the floor and when Teddy reached out to snag one of the blocks out of Draco’s hand, the older male glared fiercely in return. The urge to laugh was hard to smother so I didn’t bother to even try. Deep enough, once I stripped Draco of that angst that seemed to follow him around, he was just a child at heart.
“Come and join us,” Teddy called out, throwing a look over his shoulder.
“Give me a minute,” I said, turning to leave the room. “I just need to check on something and I’ll come and join you. You can tell me all the embarrassing things you know about Draco.”
Teddy grinned cheekily, “Deal.”
Sharing one more smile with him, I left the room and walked the familiar path to the lab. The potion was bubbling away normally, showing no signs of ruin and I grinned, ladling out one portion. I just needed to send this off to the ministry, so they could test it to make sure that it really was perfect. Helga, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It would take a few months of rigorous testing to make sure that it was perfect and almost a year later, once it got through the medical committee, it would finally be out there for use in the hospitals –
“Is it done?” The sudden question took me by surprise and I turned to find Draco standing in the doorway of the room, watching me with blatant curiosity. “The potion? Is it done?”
I couldn’t help but beam widely as I nodded. “I just need to send a portion of it off to the ministry to –”
He strode quickly towards me, taking me by surprise when his arms came around me to cage me against the table. My breath caught in my throat as I backed up against the table, almost jostling the cauldron and making it spill. I raised my eyes to his, wanting to ask if he needed something but the look in his eyes had the words refusing to come out. This had been a long time coming, and yet –
“Teddy,” I protested as one of his hands came up to frame my face, his thumb brushing against my bottom lip.
“He won’t get into any trouble if he’s left alone for a few minutes,” he assured me just as quietly, lowering his head towards mine.
“This is against the rules,” I tried again, staring up at him as he drew closer. Without any conscious intention, my eyes fluttered shut in anticipation of the kiss that never came.
“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been pulled from the force for breaking the rules?” he asked gently, making me open my eyes and raising them to his own which couldn’t seem to stray far from my lips. “I think it’s plain to say that I don’t give a fuck about those blasted rules.”
And then he was kissing me. I didn’t bother to resist, melting easily against and bringing my own hands up to tangle in his hair. He drew away from me slightly, sucking in a breath through his nose before leaning down again –
There was a loud crash, followed by, “DRACO!”
With a frustrated sigh, Draco drew away from me, his eyes rolling skyward towards the ceiling. Teddy, growing impatient, called out for Draco again.
“You should go and see what he wants,” I said quietly, clearing my throat and pushing him away with a hand to his chest.
“I should,” he agreed, licking his bottom lip and hesitating for another long moment. It was only when Teddy called for him a third time that he forced himself to make his way back to the child that he was supposed to be looking after.
The days that followed consisted of Draco stealing kisses as I tried to focus on corresponding with the ministry liaison that had been assigned to overseeing my research process. It wasn’t strange for me to be working in the lab when suddenly Draco would walk into the room to distract me. So, it didn’t take me by surprise when he walked into the lab unannounced. Perhaps if I had looked up from the letter I was writing then I would have realised that he was far tenser than normal, and he had brought his mother with him.
“Draco, I don’t have time for –”
“Someone’s breached the wards,” he cut in firmly. “Both of you need to stay here.”
“Like hell,” I protested instantly, pushing away from my desk.
“She’s right, Draco,” his mother cut in but her stubborn son was already walking to the door, planning on leaving the pair of us behind.
“Frankly you have no choice,” he ground out, shutting the door behind him.
Before I could cross the room to force the door open, the sound of him casting locking spells carried through the door and I dropped back into my seat with a sigh. When he returned I was going to kill him.
If he returned, my conscience supplied unhelpfully.
Oh Helga, there was a chance that the stubborn man wasn’t going to come back and –
“Tell me about your potion,” Mrs Malfoy urged, settling herself next to me.
I turned to the older woman in surprise and I would have commented on her nonchalance if I hadn’t caught sight of the death grip she had on her wand. She appeared the picture of poise but if I looked closely enough I could spy the tension rooted in her spine, the way the fear for her son was pooling in the depths of her eyes and the way she was adamant to not show her terror. That must have been where Draco got it from.
“Tell me about your potion,” she ordered again, “if you don’t then I might go mad and do something ridiculous like try and break that door down.”
And so, I told her, going into unnecessary detail about every step of the process. I even told her of the way I had handpicked the ingredients, not willing to risk anything and she nodded back, not really listening to my words but using them to root her to the present. As I spoke, I wondered whether she was using my voice to block out the sounds of the struggle taking place directly above us. Helga, I was definitely trying to do that.
There was a pained curse, one that definitely belonged to Draco and it had me pausing. The pair of us looked upwards, wishing we could see through the ceiling just to see that he was alright, and I found myself holding my breath as I waited for Draco to make another sound. The seconds ticked by and my lungs burned, protesting and screaming out for some much-needed oxygen. But I continued to wait and then suddenly, there was a roared spell that had me breathing much more easily.
Dropping my head into my hands, I left a deep hiss of air and wondered whether I was cut out for dating an Auror. If what we were currently doing counted as dating that was.
“Carry on,” Mrs Malfoy instructed once she was certain that Draco was in fact still breathing.
I continued to speak, letting my voice carry across the room until Draco’s voice was so much closer. He stood on the other side of the door, quietly muttering the counterspells to each of the locking spells he had put in place. Mrs Malfoy was on her feet the moment the door was open, and she hurried to her son’s side and wrapped him in an unusually unrestrained sign of affection. Draco wrapped an arm around his mother, holding her to him and watching me from over the top of her head.
Helga, he looked like he’d been through hell and back. Just how long had he been gone? I certainly had no idea. It felt like he’d been gone for an eternity and I didn’t know if that was because every moment had felt like an hour, or because he really had been gone for a long time.
When Mrs Malfoy pulled away from her son, she fretted around him and Draco finally pulled his eyes away from me. He glanced down at his mother and gave her a small smile. “I’m fine, mother.”
“The drawing room is a mess – you’re going to have to redecorate.”
She sighed, realising that he wasn’t in the mood to talk and stepped away from him. Casting a look between her son and me, she turned as if to leave the room. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to do that anyway.”
“It’s probably best you avoid that room until the back up arrives.”
Mrs Malfoy nodded in understanding and left the room. When we were alone, Draco hesitated as if unsure as to whether or not he was supposed to approach me. I made the decision for him. Hopping off the stool I was perched on, I crossed the space between us and stepped into his arms when he held them open for me. But I didn’t hug him like he clearly wanted me to. I slapped his chest harshly, feeling instantly guilty when he winced as though I’d hit somewhere that he’d already been struck by a spell. And perhaps I had.
“Sorry,” I apologised quickly, removing my hands and staring up into his face. “Helga, I don’t know why I did that.”
“It’s alright,” he assured me quietly, bringing a hand up to brush over my hair. “I shouldn’t have locked you in here, but I needed to make sure you were safe.”
“And locking me in here made sure of that how?”
“Before I showed the lab to you I had anti-apparition wards placed on the room,” he explained, curling some of my hair around his fingers. “There was no way anyone apart from me was unlocking those doors and getting to either of you.”
“Draco,” I sighed at his fierce declaration. “Just know that if you ever do that again then I’m going to leave you.”
“Got it,” he promised, a small smile tugging at his lips.
“You’d better,” I muttered my eyes lingering on the blood that was slowly flowing from his hairline. It was then that I took a moment to look at the extent of his visible injuries and felt my throat clog with tears. Helga, because of me –
“Don’t go blaming yourself,” he chastised as if he could read my thoughts. “I was doing my job, and this is just a consequence of that.”
“Did you get the intruder?” I asked instead of asking how bad his injuries were. Merlin, I was scared that he’d give me a truthful answer and I would just become even more of a mess as a result.
“Intruders,” he corrected. “There was about seven of them. I guess they learned not to come alone” Before the horror could show itself on my face, he assured me, “Potter dropped by, so I didn’t need to handle them all by myself. The pair of us were able to easily overpower them so really, you should be feeling sorry for the death eaters who had the bad luck of running into the highest performing Auror team in the entire department.”
Easily recognising his attempt at making light of the situation, I frowned but went along with it and asked, “And now?”
“Potter’s got them bound on the floor of our drawing-room, waiting for back up to arrive to transfer them into holding. I’d have stayed with him, but I needed to check on you and my mother.”
“What was Potter doing here anyway?”
“He’s planning on throwing a surprise birthday party for my cousin’s birthday. He arrived expecting to drop off an invitation and got wound into duelling death eaters.” At the sight of my heavy frown, he sighed and pulled me closer to him. “What is it now?”
“Nothing.” Shaking my head, I looked him over again. “Let’s just go get you cleaned up.”
“Lead the way.”
Chapter 2: Epilogue: 1 Year Later
“The twerp is set on stealing my girlfriend from me.”
1 YEAR LATER
Of all the days to be running late, we just had to have the bad luck of running late on the day of Potter’s wedding. It was all Draco’s fault. I had told the stubborn man that he hadn’t left enough time for himself to get ready, but he had been insistent that he knew himself better than I knew him. But honestly, the infuriating git always underestimated just how obsessed he was with his looks. Helga, I’d watched him tie, untie, and retie his bleeding bowtie almost a dozen times as he stood in front of the mirror. Only when I had stood in front of him and fixed it for him did he deem it perfect.
And it was probably best that I didn’t even think about how long it had taken for him to do his hair. Helga, he’s spent so long getting ready that I’d been convinced that he was the bride. Although, the white dress would probably only serve to wash out his already pale complexion and his hair. So maybe he had a point with all the dark pieces of clothing he owned? Not that I’d ever tell him that.
When we finally arrived at the venue, mere minutes before the wedding, we had dropped in to see his cousin as she waited in the bridal suite. The soon-to-be Mrs Potter regarded her cousin with equal parts exasperation and relief. He instantly began to tease her about the dress she had finally chosen and before he managed to get himself hexed, I dragged him out of the room.
Before the ceremony began, I found my seat at the front of the room and watched as Draco made his way to stand by Potter as one of his groomsmen. Potter patted him on his shoulder and Draco looked over his future cousin-in-law and sighed with mock disappointment.
“I always knew you were a bit mad Potter,” he despaired. “But to willingly shackle yourself to my cousin – you belong in St Mungo’s.”
“Shut up, you plonker,” Potter said without any heat as he rolled his eyes.
“She’s got one hell of a temper on her,” he warned, ignoring the way I cleared my throat pointedly behind him. One of these days his cousin was going to curse him, and I was probably going to help her do it.
“It’s much easier to deal with than yours,” Potter shot back as everyone took to their places.
The ceremony itself went off without a hitch. Teddy acted as the ring bearer and once he had completed his duties, he settled himself into the empty seat beside me and held out a hand towards me. Smiling at the adorable boy, I held his hand between both of mine and we both watched as the bride and groom exchanged their vows. Partway through the ceremony, Draco looked out into the guests to wink at me and Teddy giggled as if it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen.
Once the vows were exchanged and the couple had shared their first kiss, they prepared to walk out of the venue as man and wife. But before they’d even stepped away from the alter, Potter held his hand out for Teddy who went more than willingly to his new uncle’s side and held his other hand. His aunt pressed a kiss to Teddy’s cheek and together, the three of them walked out of the venue.
I waited behind as the rest of the guests walked out of the hall and when Draco came to my side, I wrapped an arm around his waist. He draped an arm over my shoulder, keeping me at his side when I went to follow the crowd. Looking questioningly towards him, I silently raised an eyebrow when he just smiled.
“What is it?” I murmured when he sighed with amusement.
“The twerp is set on stealing my girlfriend from me.”
He didn’t need to specify who he was talking about and I laughed at this continual jealousy Draco had towards Teddy. It had sprung from one throwaway comment that I’d made about preferring Teddy to him.
“He’s already claimed that you’re his first crush.”
“Well, then I’m honoured.”
Draco rolled his eyes, leaning down to press a kiss to my forehead. That didn’t seem to fulfil his need for affection as he leaned down to kiss me soundly. Before he could get too carried away, I pulled away from him and stared up at him with curiosity in my eyes. He’d never been one for public displays of affection - even if we were one of the very few people in the room. He’d always shrugged away from anything more than holding hands or wrapping an arm around my waist or should when we were in public.
“You’re beautiful,” he said suddenly, and I wasn’t persuaded.
“What do you want?”
“Truthfully?” He raised an eyebrow and I nodded. “I booked some time off work and I just want to sleep for the next week.”
“You?” He laughed wholeheartedly at the surprise in my voice.
Sometimes I couldn’t believe how much he had changed. Standing in front of me was a man who had easily claimed that he loved being at work, or more specifically, being out on the field where he was catching dark wizards. But he wasn’t that person. Not anymore, anyway. Draco used to consider each field mission he went on as another way for him to redeem himself for the bad decisions he’d made when he was nothing more than a boy without a choice. It had taken some time, but I had made sure that he not only knew but accepted the fact that he didn’t need to continually find ways to try and make up for sins he hadn’t committed.
“You deserve the time off,” I said finally. “That last mission was tough.”
“That’s the understatement of the century,” he muttered as we both began to walk out of the hall. “It killed me.”
His words made me stop in my step. The mission really had almost killed him. It was only a few weeks ago when I had arrived home ready to celebrate the fact that my potion was finally being implemented in hospitals around the country. But instead of being greeted by my waiting boyfriend, I was greeted by his solemn partner. Potter had very quietly explained to me what had happened before taking me to Draco’s hospital room.
Realising that I wasn’t walking beside him, Draco dropped back to my side and watched me in silence, trying to understand where my thoughts were. He sighed, taking my hand and pressing an apologetic kiss to it.
“Then stop saying things like that,” I whined, pulling my hand away from him. “It’s not funny Draco.”
“I know that.” He wrapped his arm around me again, leading me out of the hall. “You’ve always said I need to think before I speak.”
“You really should start doing that,” I muttered a little petulantly as I turned into him. “Do you not remember that your wise mouth got you hexed just last week? And by your own mother at that?”